POLS 366

Politics of Russia and Eurasia
Fall 2006

:                             Laman Rzayeva
Meeting time and place:       Wednesday, 6:30 – 9:10 PM,  NIU Naperville 
Office address:                      Dusable 476
Office hours:                         Tuesday, 5:00-6:30 PM or by appointment
E-Mail:                                  lrzayeva@yahoo.com or laman.tasch@comcast.net

Course description/objectives

 The primary objective of this course is to provide students with an introduction to the politics of Russia and newly emerged states of Eurasia, namely, countries, which used to be parts of the Soviet Union.

As most of you are aware, Russia and the other Eurasian states have been undergoing a period of rapid and profound change. Two centuries ago all of them had been a part of the Russian Empire. Century later Bolshevik revolution marked collapse of the Russian Empire and establishment of another one,  the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  USSR brought together again most of the Eurasian states into different type of political organization.

Seventy years later, and another revolution of Mikail Gorbachev, perestroika, glasnost and “new thinking”, shook the world. Not only it catalyzed end of the Soviet Union and emergence of the fifteen independent states, but   also brought an end to the Cold War and had tremendous impact on the re-organization of the international world order. Since then these states have been experiencing a dramatic change in their political and economic institutions.

What is historical legacy of Tsarist and Soviet periods in these countries and how has it affected route of their political transformation?  What kind of patterns of political development have these states been following? What are their political institutions today? Have they become free-market democracies or not and why? What are their relations with each other, with Russia,  with the US and with West in general? What are their current problems? These are some of the issues, which will be covered in this course.

This course will focus on politics of Russia. In addition to Russia, four more countries, namely Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia and Uzbekistan, will be discussed in details, and ten more countries will be overviewed.  To address the above-mentioned issues, this course is organized according to the following schedule.

In the first section, students will be introduced to the geography of Russian Federation. In the second section, political history of Russian Empire and Soviet Union will be covered. Major objective of this section is to understand historical legacy of these periods for the formation of political institutions and national identity in countries in question.  The third section will survey political history and recent political developments and problems in some of the non-Russian Eurasian countries. The final section will focus on the politics of contemporary Russia.

Besides introducing students to the politics of Russia and other Eurasian countries, this course also aims to help students develop their abilities to think and argue logically both orally and in writing. Students will be given an opportunity to express themselves in various written assignments, as well as in class discussions (see below).

This course does not require any specialized knowledge and is open to students come to this course with varied backgrounds and majors.


Required/recommended texts

It should soon become apparent that the lectures are not a mere reiteration of the readings. The readings and lectures are presented as complementary (and only sometimes overlapping) sources of information. You will be responsible for the material presented in both. Thus, some of the test questions will cover material from the readings that has not been specifically addressed in class.

Readings from the following texts have been assigned as specified in the course outline. They are available at the university bookstores.

§         Richard Sakwa, Soviet Politics in Perspective, New York: Routledge, 1998 (required).

  • Thomas F. Remington, Politics in Russia,  New York, NY: Pearson Longman, 2006 (required).

§         Jeannette Goehring and  Amanda Schnetzer, Nations in Transit 2005 : Democratization in East Central Europe and Eurasia, New York : Freedom House, 2005. (recommended)

  • Daniel R. Kempton & Terry D. Clark, eds., Unity or Separation: Center-Periphery Relations in the Former Soviet Union, New York, Praeger Publishers, 2002. (recommended)

The following six case studies have been assigned (required). These are short readings and can be purchased in any of the university bookstores.

1.      Elena Kotova and the Moscow Privatization Agency (KSG C16-92-1141)

2.      The August Coup: Part A (KSG C16-92-1147-0)

3.      Defending National Interest: Ukraine and Peacekeeping in Transdniestr (KSG 1407.0)

4.      Political Economy in Putin's Russia: YUKOS & the Demise of an Oligarch by Rotnem, Thomas E. (Pew 280, ISBN: 1-56797-280-8)

5.      Northern Territories Controversy (Pew Case #364)

6.      Up in Arms: Russian Rockets Sales for India (Pew 99-N)

Required books and case studies are available from the university bookstores. Recommended books are available from the print reserve of the Founders Library.



Written assignments

Written assignments include news journals (submitted weakly), and short research paper.

News Journals


To learn more about contemporary developments in the former Soviet Union each week students are required to read two stories and to submit instructor a journal entry for each of these stories. One news story/journal entry should be about politics of Russia. Second news story/journal entry should be about politics of any other Eurasian country covered in this course.  For the news sources students can search Academic Universe from the university online database (http://www.niulib.niu.edu:2450/polisci.cfm, how to search it will be shown in the class).  Other good news sources are given below.

Each entry should include a brief summary of the basic development, and also student’s assessment of the implications of these developments. Students can refer to other related articles in making their comments. For example, what do these developments mean for that country’s future political stability or for democracy, how would they affect their relations with Russia, or the US or other powerful neighbors?  Do you agree with the policy being undertaken?  What is basic argument of the author? Does author provide enough evidence to support that argument? Do you find argument convincing?

Each entry should be approximately one page in length, double spaced and in the standard fonts and margins (no jumbo or minute text).  Journal articles should be cited in text by date and by source, for example (www.gazeta.ru, 6 January 2004).  Direct quotes must be placed in quote mark. Journal entries may not be taken verbatim from the text. Not properly quotes journal entries will be downgraded.

In total, students are expected to type and submit journal entries for the first ten academic  weeks of the semester (assuming that first week starts on September 13, 2006). Each Tuesday students should submit two journal entries (covering two articles of the past week). In sum, students should submit 20 journal entries, and their grade from journals will constitute 15% of their total grade. For the due dates please see table at the end of the syllabus.


Sources of news:


Regional news

CNN—Europe  http://edition.cnn.com/EUROPE/

NY Times—Europe http://www.nytimes.com/pages/world/europe/index.html

Washington Post—Europe  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/world/europe/

BBC—Europe http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/default.stm

RFE/RL NewsLine  http://www.rferl.org/newsline/

EurasiaNet  http://www.eurasianet.org/index.shtml

WPS Media Monitoring Agency http://www.wps.ru/en/index.html









































Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington   http://www.russianembassy.org/ 

Gazeta http://www.gazeta.ru/english/
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia http://www.ln.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/english
Moscow Times http://www.themoscowtimes.com/indexes/01.html
The President of Russia  http://kremlin.ru/eng/
Russia Journal Daily http://www.russiajournal.com/
Russian News and Information Agency Novosti
St. Petersburg Times http://en.rian.ru/ 
Vladisvostok News http://vlad.tribnet.com/


Tajikistan http://www.eurasianet.org/resource/tajikistan/hypermail/news/index.shtml


Eurasia.net—Turkmenistan http://www.eurasianet.org/resource/turkmenistan/hypermail/news/index.shtml


ForUm http://eng.for-ua.com/
Kyiv Post http://www.kyivpost.com/
The Ukrainian Weekly http://www.ukrweekly.com/



Uzbekistan National News Agency http://www.uza.uz/news/uzbekistan/
Uzreport  http://www.uzreport.com/main.cgi?lan=e



Short Research Paper

In addition to the journal entries, students should write a short paper. This paper should be approximately 8-10 pages in length, double-spaced with normal margins and type size. As with the assigned cases, the topic chosen for the paper should involve a decision or dilemma for a specific post-Soviet politician, government, or governmental organization. ANY country covered in this course, whether in detail or not, can be used for writing a short paper.

The paper will then look at the dilemma from the perspective of an identified government or individual decision maker. Each paper should contain the following information (not necessarily in the given order). Papers will be graded according to the adequacy in providing information on the below given  questions.

  • Start with the political problem, which you want to study. What is a problem? What is interesting/important and or controversial about this problem?
  • Who are major actors involved in that problem? From the perspective of which actor is student going to analyze this problem? What is role of this actor in this problem/in the solution of this problem? Note that this actor can be individual (president, minister, oligarch, important political figure) OR just government OR NGO or any other governmental or non-governmental organization OR any social group (ethnic, religious, political).
  • What are their objectives and goals of the selected actor with regard to this problem?
  •  What options does selected actor have to solve this problem?
  • What are advantages and disadvantages of each option? What could selected actor gain or lose from following each of the mentioned options?
  • At what stage of the solution is this problem? Are you happy with development of the events? Why yes or why no? Which solution would you propose and why?
  • Make sure to state clearly your argument and to present a causal chain, like: this is a problem I want to explain and these are factors I will use for explanation. Describe your causal chain, show how factors (which you selected) explain your problem, and explain why did you select those particular factors.
  • Make sure to present evidence for your arguments. If you state something, prove it, refer to the specific sources of information. Also consider alternatives, think, how any disconfirming evidence would fit into your explanation.


Students may write the paper using only news articles. Thus, summarizing in your journal multiple stories on the same topic would be prudent. However, students should be aware of the bias behind some news sources and should use news as a source of facts, not reasoning. To add background and depth to their paper, students are required to refer to other resources (academic books and articles available from the university library or from the electronic library). Students also can use books and case studies assigned for this class. Students should use at least three not-newspaper sources for their papers.

Students are strongly encouraged to contact the instructor as early as possible in case if they have any problems with finding sources of information for their papers.


All sources should be properly footnoted using an accepted style. The papers should be submitted by November 22, 2006. Paper will count for 20% of the semester grade.

Here is a list of the useful web sites about writing a paper (how to chose a topic, how to organize paper, how to present your argument, how to quote, etc.):










Web sites about different citation styles:







Plagiarism Statement

 "The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration as a serious offense. Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment written, in whole or in part, by someone else. Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university." Northern Illinois University Undergraduate Catalog.


Late submission of the written assignments

No late submissions will be accepted. If any written assignment is not submitted on due day, it will be evaluated as 0 points/ 0 %.  There will be no exceptions to this rule. Therefore, students with sick relatives, paper-eating canines, low-life typists, or ill-tempered computers--as well as those students who are routinely taken hostage aboard alien spaceships--are strongly encouraged to compensate for any potential mishaps by preparing their journals in advance of the submission deadlines.


Submitting written assignments


Assignments should be handed in to me personally, or given to a department secretary to be time-stamped.  Assignments placed under my office door, sent with a friends/relatives or e-mailed tend to disappear at times.  If a student selects one of these modes of delivery, he or she does so at their own risk.


In addition to the journals and essays there will be two examinations, a mid-term and a final examination. Each will represent 25% of the semester grade. The examinations will cover the material presented in the lectures, the readings and class discussions. The mid-term examination will account for 20% of the semester grade and will be administered in class on October 18, 2006. Final exam will account for 25% of the semester grade and the final will be administered on  December 13, 2006. The final will NOT be cumulative in the traditional sense. Only countries covered in detail (Soviet Union, Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia and Uzbekistan) will be included into exam.

Make up examination and incomplete degree

Make-up examination and incomplete degree will be given students only when extremely needed for very significant reason, such as hospitalization of the student and death of his or her primary relative (although instructor deeply wishes none of them happens) and with documentary evidence. Students should provide such evidence to instructor at least one week in advance before examination day (for makeup) or end of the semester (for incomplete).


Participation will be evaluated on the basis of regular attendance and in-class participation (including in-time presence in the class, participation in the discussions, attention to the lectures).  More than four absences will result in the deduction of the participation grade.  Students who come 15 minutes later AND/OR leave 15 minutes earlier designated class hours without prior knowledge of the instructor will be considered as absent.

Students who are engaged in the non-class related activities (for example, reading newspapers and books when not requested by the instructor, etc.) will also be considered absent.

Participation grade will account for 10 % of the semester grade. Students can have 2 (two) unexcused and 3 (three) excused (with submission of the written proof of an excuse) absences. Students who have more than two unexcused and three excused absences will automatically get 0 points/ 0 percent for their participation grade.

Instructor reserves a right to adjust total grade on the base of participation.

Extra Points

Extra points are reward given to students for additional work. Students have a chance of getting extra points if they submit summary of the chapters from the required, which have NOT been ASSIGNED as required (not-assigned chapters from Sakwa’s and Remington’s books), ANY chapters from the Kempton and Clark’s book or from the “Nations in Transit”, or any recommended articles from the class  schedule (see below).  Each summary should be 2-3 double-spaced pages long and is worth 4 (four) points. If you submit your extra-points assignment before the midterm,  your extra points will be added to the total grade of your midterm. If you submit your extra-points assignment after the midterm,  your extra points will be added to the total grade of your final exam.



Participation = 10%

Journals = 15%

Short paper = 20%

Midterm Exam = 25%
Final Exam = 30%





Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities

 Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU us committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.

Department of Political Science Web Site


Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu
















Course Schedule


Sep 13

Distribution and explanation of the course syllabus

Intro to the geography and climate of Eurasia

Russia prior the 1917 October Revolution

1917 October Revolution, Civil War and establishment of the Soviet Union

Sakwa, chprs. 1 & 2 (required, please read later).


Good web site with maps: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/commonwealth.html


Sept  20

Soviet Political System and role of the Communist Party

From Stalin to Gorbachev


Required: Sakwa, chps. 3, 4, 5 (pages 66-70), 6, 7 (required).
Note that chprs. 8, 10, 11 are related, recommended, but not required.
Remington, chp. 2 (pages 30-43 - required. These pages also include very brief but precise analysis of the Soviet federal structure, economic system, and role of the leadership prior to Gorbachev).
Journals 1 and 2 are due!


Sept 27

Soviet Economic System

Sakwa, chp. 14 (required)


Case study: Elena Kotova and the Moscow Privatization (required)


Journals 3 and 4 are due!


Oct 4

Soviet federalism and Soviet nationality policy

Sakwa, chp.15. (required)


Soviet foreign policy

Sakwa, chp.16.(required)


Journals 5 and 6 are due!


Oct 11

Mikail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Required reading: Sakwa, chp. 5 (pages 70-78), chp. 17. Remington, chp. 2 (pages 43-49)


Case Study: The August Coup: Part A (required)


Journals 7 and 8 are due!



Oct 18

Midterm examination

Oct 25

Baltic region: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia

Lithuania (in detail) + Latvia and Estonia (overview)


Recommended: corresponding articles from the Nations in Transit 2005.


Review for the midterm


Journals 9 and 10 are due!

Nov 1

Ukraine, Belarus, Moldavia

Ukraine (in detail) + Belarus and Moldova (overview)


Case Study: Defending National Interest: Ukraine and Peacekeeping in Transdniestr (required)


Recommended: corresponding articles from the Nations in Transit 2005.


Journals 11 and 12 are due!

Nov 8

South Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia

Georgia (in detail) + Azerbaijan and Armenia (overview)


Recommended: corresponding articles from the Nations in Transit 2005.


Journals 13 and 14 are due!


Nov 15

Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

Uzbekistan (in detail) +  Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan (overview)


Recommended: corresponding articles from the Nations in Transit 2005.


Journals 15 and 16 are due!


Nov 22

Russian federalism


Russian political system (Executive, Legislative, Judiciary)


Required: Remington, chps. 3 and 8.


Recommended: Remington, chps. 4, 5 and 6; Kempton, chpt. 1 & 2;

Ross, Cameron, "Putin's Federal Reforms and the Consolidation of Federalism in Russia: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back!" Communist and Post-Communist Studies 36(1), 2003, pages 29-47, http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/bmoraski/Russia/Ross03_CPCS.pdf,

Hale, Henry E., "The Makeup and Breakup of Ethnofederal States: Why Russia Survives Where the USSR Fell", Perspectives on Politics 3(1), 2005, pages 55-70, http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/bmoraski/Russia/Hale05_PoP.pdf;

Petrov, Nikolai “From Managed Democracy to Sovereign Democracy” PONARS Policy Memo # 396, http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/pm_0396.pdf


Papers are due!


Journals 17 and 18 are due!


Nov 29

Russian economic system

Remington, chp. 7. (required)

Case study: Political Economy in Putin's Russia: YUKOS & the Demise of an Oligarch by Rotnem, Thomas E. (required)

Russian foreign policy

Remington, chp. 9 (required)


Recommended: Hill, Fiona “Extremists and Bandits: How Russia Views the War against Terrorism”, PONARS Policy Memo #246, Apr. 2002, http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/pm_0246.pdf;

Marcel de Haas “Putin’s Security Policy in the Past, Present and Future”, Baltic Defense Review 12 (2) 2004 (available at NIU electronic library)


Journals 19 and 20 are due!


Dec 6

Case study: Northern Territories Controversy (required)

Case Study: Up in Arms: Russian Rockets Sales for India (required)


Review for the final


Dec 13

Final examination

6-7:50 PM